Geotechnical Engineer Job Descriptions, Average Salary, Interview Questions

What Does a Geotechnical Engineer Do?

A geotechnical engineer is a civil engineer that specifically studies soil, rocks, and other materials that make up the surface and subsurface of the Earth. The purpose of their work is to determine the suitability of the ground for use in construction projects and other engineering projects by analyzing its physical and mechanical characteristics. Site investigations are conducted by geotechnical engineers, who collect soil and rock samples for analysis. Using this information, engineers design foundations, retaining walls, embankments, tunnels, and other structures that can withstand soil and rock pressures.

The role of geotechnical engineers extends beyond infrastructure and construction projects to include environmental remediation and waste management. In order to minimize the spread of contaminants, they study the properties of soil and rock. Ultimately, geotechnical engineers ensure the safety and stability of construction and infrastructure projects and protect the environment.

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National Average Salary

Geotechnical engineer salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site

The average U.S. salary for a Geotechnical Engineer is:


Geotechnical Engineer Job Descriptions

The first step when hiring a great geotechnical engineer is a well-crafted job description. Below are real-world examples to help give you the best chance of success on your recruiting journey.

Example 1

When it comes to building new infrastructure, one of the most important aspects to consider is its foundation. A geotechnical engineer is a type of civil engineer who studies soil and rock properties to help design the best foundation, from roads to new buildings. Geotechnical engineers are also responsible for assessing the stability of adjacent slopes, and the risk of avalanches and landslides. [Your Company Name] is looking to hire experienced geotechnical engineers with excellent communication and advanced computer skills.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Provide expert engineering advice and recommendations for construction projects
  • Perform geotechnical studies, field tests, analysis, and design
  • Prepare and present findings and recommendations to leadership
  • Organize and direct geotechnical site assessment
  • Determine and obtain necessary compliance permits 

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or another related engineering field required
  • Professional Engineering (PE) licensure preferred

Required skills and qualifications

  • Up-to-date knowledge of federal, state, and local environmental regulations
  • Expertise in CAD (computer-aided design) software
  • Microsoft Office Suite proficient
  • Strong critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • Excellent time management skills with the ability to effectively prioritize tasks
  • Comfortable working in the field
  • Strong teamwork skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree or continuing education in the field
  • Excellent knowledge of local soil and rock properties
  • Experience working out in the field
  • Advanced data collection and recording techniques

Example 2

The mission of a Geotechnical Engineer for ABC company, a leading specialty engineering firm in (state), is to support the project manager or other staff as directed to assure client satisfaction through the preparation of detailed calculations, performing engineering analyses, and completing field assignments.


  • Observing and documenting field activities related to the construction process
  • Sampling, testing, and inspecting soils, aggregates, concrete, grout, masonry, asphalt, and structural steel placement
  • Performing calculations and data reduction of test results along with drafting
  • Using field testing equipment and documenting readings
  • Reading maps, following directions, and interpreting engineering and construction plans
  • Interacting and communicating daily with contractors, technicians, and project manager
  • Testing of soils, foundations, reinforced and post-tensioned concrete masonry, structural steel, and asphalt pavement
  • Determining and/or performing appropriate laboratory tests
  • Attending project meetings and assisting in project resolutions
  • Assisting with the preparation of proposals
  • Assisting with scheduling, training, and oversight of Field Technicians
  • Assist with managing project budgets, project set-ups, and invoicing

Key accountabilities

  • Timeliness/Punctuality
  • Participation in Professional Organizations (monthly meetings)
  • Career Development (Relevant In-house Training)

Example 3

If you’re looking for a place to kick-start your career, where you can contribute to a dynamic employee-owned firm, tackle challenging project work, and collaborate with industry-recognized professionals – ABC company is the place for you! As a Geotechnical Engineer in (city, state) you will have the opportunity to apply your academic knowledge to real-world situations on projects involving site characterization; landfill design and construction; earth retaining structures; deep and soft/weak foundations; dams and water containment structures; forensic investigations and litigation support; geotechnical instrumentation and monitoring; numerical analysis of stability and deformation; and geohazard/earthquake characterization/mitigation, while learning the business skills needed for a successful consulting career.

Essential duties and responsibilities

Is this the right position to help you achieve your professional goals? Some of the key responsibilities for the position include:

  • Performing and reviewing engineering calculations, such as slope stability, settlement, bearing capacity, and seepage
  • Developing, installing, and managing instrumentation monitoring systems
  • Conducting geotechnical field investigations
  • Landfill design and permitting
  • Performing fieldwork associated with design and construction services
  • Data analysis, including preparing maps, tables, and figures
  • Developing construction documents, including drawings and specifications
  • Preparing calculation packages, technical reports, letters, and memoranda
  • Development and use of advanced technical methods, computer programs and practice tools

Here are some other things you should know about this position

  • Training: This position requires OSHA health and safety, first aid, and CPR training and medical monitoring, paid for by the firm. We also offer professional development opportunities including in-house seminars, webinars, and mentoring, that allow our professionals to build the technical and business skills necessary to become successful consultants
  • Fieldwork and Overnight travel: as needed

Education and licensure

  • Bachelor’s degree in civil, geological, or environmental engineering (required)
  • Advanced degree in civil or geotechnical engineering (preferred)
  • Engineer-in-Training (EIT) certification (preferred)

Skills, experience, and qualifications

  • At least two years of related experience in civil, geotechnical, related internships and co-op experience will be considered experience; or equivalent combination of education and experience (required)
  • Experience with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) (required)
  • Experience with common geotechnical software such as GeoStudio, Slide, Settle3D, PLAXIS (preferred)
  • Working knowledge of AutoCAD Civil3D software (preferred)
  • Demonstrated strong interest in civil and landfill design (preferred)
  • Strong oral and technical writing skills (required)
  • Ability to obtain OSHA 40-hr HAZWOPER training and refreshers (required)
  • Valid U.S. driver’s license and a satisfactory driving record for business travel (required)

Example 4

ABC company is growing its dams, levee, and water resource practice. We are currently seeking a Geotechnical Engineer for our (city, state) office. The position offers great potential for professional growth in an exciting working environment and the opportunity to apply the latest technologies to our dam/levee-related projects. The qualified candidate must have strong leadership and project management experience and direct business development experience during their career, with the ability to generate project leads and build client relationships. A strong background in dam and/or levee engineering is preferred.

Key duties:

  • Conducting dam and/or levee safety inspections
  • Supervising fieldwork including test borings and instrumentation installations and construction monitoring for dam and levee rehabilitation projects
  • Providing data analysis, organization, and interpretation in support of dam/levee inspections, evaluations, and rehabilitations projects
  • Executing and/or supervising engineering analyses including seepage and slope stability analyses of embankment dams and levees, toe drain and filter designs, gravity dam stability analyses
  • Writing field reports, inspection/engineering reports, and permit applications
  • Preparing construction plans and technical specifications
  • Performing cost/quantity estimates and project scheduling
  • Communicating effectively and efficiently with team members, clients and contractors
  • Providing leadership/mentoring to technical staff
  • Interacting with clients and regulatory agencies
  • Executing project management duties including managing and tracking budgets, invoicing, assessing staffing requirements, etc.
  • Preparing technical and cost proposals


  • B.S. in Civil Engineering or related field of practice is required. Master’s Degree with a Geotechnical focus is a plus.
  • Professional Engineer license in (state) is required
  • An ideal candidate will have at least 10 to 15 years of experience in civil – geotechnical engineering, with direct involvement in dam safety inspections, condition assessments, subsurface exploration programs, engineering analyses, dam rehabilitation design, and regulatory permitting
  • Proven experience with design and development of engineering technical specifications, cost estimating, and other related bidding documents
  • Strong interpersonal skills and ability to speak publicly
  • Solid project financial management skills; knowledge of production support systems and personal computer proficiency are all required competencies
  • Experience in providing technical and project leadership to staff-level or junior engineers
  • A strong background using various geotechnical computer software such as SEEP/W, SLOPE/W, and finite element analysis software such as PLAXIS are preferred
  • Proven experience with and directing staff with AutoCAD and ArcView-GIS is considered essential for this position
  • Occasional out-of-town travel will be required. Candidate must have consistent means of transportation to/from project sites

Candidate Certifications to Look For

  • Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) – Each state has its own guidelines for licensure, so candidates will want to first check what their state requires. In order to become fully licensed as a civil engineer, they’ll have to pass the PE exam. Many courses are available online to help them prepare and pass the PE. 
  • Diplomate, Geotechnical Engineering (D.GE) – A D.GE certificate, offered by the Academy of Geo-Professionals, is considered the most prestigious in the field of geotechnical engineering. This certification can be obtained after several years working as a geotechnical engineer. The exam includes questions to answer as well as a project to present. After the presentation, candidates will be asked about the technical aspects of the field and quizzed on a variety of ethical issues. To maintain this certification, they’ll be required to earn 20 hours of professional development hours per year. This exam is tough, but receiving the D.GE certification will advance a candidate’s career and add credibility to their portfolio.

Sample Interview Questions

  • Can you describe your experience with soil and rock sampling techniques and methods?
  • In order to determine a soil’s suitability for construction and infrastructure projects, how do you analyze its properties?
  • Would you mind explaining how you take into account the properties of the surrounding soil and rock when designing a foundation or retaining wall?
  • What strategies do you use to mitigate geologic hazards in your designs?
  • As a geotechnical engineer, what was the most challenging project you worked on, and how did you overcome it?
  • How do you keep up-to-date with geotechnical engineering research and developments, and how do you use this knowledge in your job?
  • How well do you communicate technical information to other engineers and stakeholders?
  • What steps do you take to minimize sources of error or uncertainty in your designs and recommendations?

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